The Irony of the Introverted Writer

There is an irony to my profession.

Writing is often seen as the ideal profession for introverts. Hours ALONE at a desk with nothing but the computer and an iPod to keep you company. If you want to feel social, flip the wi-fi back on for a little bit and surf the internet, Facebook, twitter, wherever your little heart desires and you never have to talk to an actual person face to face, or even over the phone. It’s always you and a keyboard, nothing else.

writer-1421099_1920.jpgThing is, that’s the romantic version of being a writer.

One technological step up from Thoreau’s cabin in the woods is turning off all your wi-fi and locking yourself in your apartment or bedroom with a bottle of Merlot and a keurig next to your Macbook.

Writing itself – a totally introverted sport.

Being a writer – So. Much. More.

Being a writer, isn’t just about writing at your desk. That’s the part that makes you a writer. I mean, if you don’t write – you aren’t a writer. It’s like, the only qualification. It’s more than just that, though. Being a writer is about experiencing life. People, places, and activities are a bigger part of that than most of us like to admit, even to ourselves. It’s nice to imagine yourself high up in your tower, writing by the light of a candle in a sound proof room, the entire world shut out.

How can one write about the world, write about the experiences of someone living in the world, when one has not had those experiences for themself?

From experience, I’ve found that when one lets themself give in to introverted tendencies and do little but sit behind the computer and write, things happen.

  1. Our bodies start to fall apart. Have you ever tried writing through a cold? The flu? Pneumonia? If you haven’t, chances are you’re thinking that you could make it work. If you have, I’d lay odds you know it’s just that much harder than it sounds. Our brains tend to find focus hard to obtain when we’re operating on less than 100% capacity. Most of our bodies energies are being spent on trying to get better, trying to heal. They aren’t easily reallocated for writing. When we sit in one place for long periods of time without getting up to do something like exercise or eat right, our bodies don’t like it. Our immune system weakens, and our writing suffers.
  2. Our minds start to wander. There is only so much we can pour into any one project at one time. Eventually, your mind wants to do something else. We end up scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, bingeing Netflix, and doing anything at our computer but writing. We get bored. The human brain is designed to shift from task to task, for survival, if nothing else. More than that, when you pour all of your energy into something at one time, you eventually lose momentum. You lose the fuel to write.
  3. Our writing starts to feel forced and uninspired, it might even be of poorer quality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this. I lock myself up for more than one day to write and the first day, everything goes awesome. The words are really flowing and it’s sounding amazing. (Until revision, that is.) The second day, it gets harder. It’s like trying to make a car go on nothing but the ghost of gasoline fumes. It’s not an easy thing. I might make my word count that day, but I’ll look back on what I wrote and it’ll be repetitive, it’ll have redundant words out the wazoo, and be of a quality I haven’t produced since third grade. It’s a result of not having fuel. Experiencing things, getting out and being a person fuels our writing. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, it gets those creative juices flowing like they don’t when you don’t experience anything for a while. The greats will tell you not to wait for inspiration to write, and they’re correct. You should always write something, every day. You can’t edit or revise, and definitely not publish, what isn’t there in the first place. But, you also shouldn’t force yourself to create something out of nothing. There’s a difference between drained writing and writing that takes place with something in the fuel tank, even if that something isn’t for that project. You can feel it. It might all be in your head, but you can feel it all the same.

These are just a few of the things that happen to a writer: drainage, declining health, and even the lack of enjoyment in writing. Getting out and about is essential for even the biggest introverts. The human being is designed to move and to learn, to do things other than stare at a computer all day.

These are the physical ironies of the introverted writer. But, then there’s the rest of it, the professional ironies.

A lot of the professional tasks of being a writer can be done over a computer screen, yes. But if you’re at all successful there may be things you have to do for one reason or another that require face to face contact with your audience.

As an introvert, I’m sometimes terrified to do things as simple as send out a submission to a magazine so that maybe, just maybe, I might get published. What happens if they like it and I have to talk with a person? Or, worse, what if they don’t like it and I put my neck out there only to have my head cut off when they send me a rejection.

If you’re self publishing, you still might have to deal with a designer to make your cover, bloggers who will hopefully review your book(s), people you want to write blurbs for the back cover. All of those things. You might even get fan mail, if you’re good, that you may wish to respond to.

Writing may have been an introverted task, but once you get into this side of things it becomes extrovert oriented very quickly.

You wanted to be a published writer without a typical 9-5 so when you have to make an appearance at a convention and talk on a panel so you can get paid enough to keep the lights on this month… you’re going to have to be an extrovert for a while. Even if you’re only pretending. No one likes a stand-offish panelist.

If you’re a writer of anything but the big FOUR: Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Screenplays, and Poetry… it can be extroverted start to finish.

Freelance blog posts? Networking.

Articles for businesses? Networking.

Reviews for books? Networking.

Blogger? Networking.

There is networking everywhere! At Ball State the English department holds “Stars to Steer By” events where they bring in speakers, give presentations, and a dozen other things that prepare English Majors (and others) for a career with a humanities degree, or getting a career with a humanities degree.

I wish I had attended more of these, but I’m an introvert and I don’t get out much.

One of the sections, that I didn’t attend but should have… Networking for Introverts.

Yep, it’s a thing. And it was something helpful to a few of the people I know because let’s face it, a good portion of the people attracted to a humanities degree? Introverts.

We like what we like.

So, yeah, writing is an ironic profession for introverts. You can’t get away from people, especially when people are what you write about. And lets face it, anything with characters, even talking horses, lions, beavers, fauns, and other non-humans… it’s about people. Which introverts, tend to avoid.

I look at it this way, being an introvert is all well and good, but no one is designed to be completely alone. Even hermits keep a dog or a cat. Castaways have a volleyball.

Writing is a sport for introverts. But being a writer… you might have to step out of the comfort circle for a bit.

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I Took Myself to the Movies

The-Greatest-Showman-HDThis year, my word is “passion”, so in learning to have passion, I am trying to learn who I am outside of other people and structured activities. I’m learning to play and to do things that I didn’t learn when I was a kid due to fear, anxiety, depression, and other factors.

Today, I went to a movie by myself and it was the best choice I could have ever made.

I hurt myself at work this week, my back is killing me, I’m going to the doctor tomorrow, and I needed to do something, anything, to take my mind off of it. What better way to do that than to lose myself in a story? I went and saw The Greatest Showman.

Not only was the movie just phenomenally written and performed, it was really just an all around wonderful experience for me.

With my word for the year being “Passion”, this was the best movie choice I could have made. (I’ll try not to give any spoilers.)

The movie was a bout P.T. Barnum, a showman, and ringmaster that existed in actual history. I don’t know much about Barnum in real life, so I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy and truth of the storyline, but I can vouch for the truth of the movie’s message. it told the story of Barnum’s passion for being a showman, for his  family, and for the world he wanted to see for his family.

It was also a sort of cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of letting your passions consume you so much that you lose sight of what really matters in life, family, friendship, and love.

In a way, though it didn’t directly relate to my faith, I found it to have a tone to it that I could agree with as a Christian. You should not focus on getting more and being more. Your passion for something should not come at the cost of what really matters, and definitely not at the cost of your  soul.

Altogether, the story was a good lesson in passion for me to start the year off with.

Moreover, going by myself was just a good choice for me. I had never been to the movies by myself before this afternoon. I was always told that it was more of a people thing, something you did with someone so you could have more fun. But, the people I always go with (usually family) like to make comments that I don’t care to listen to because I just want to lose myself in the story. Because of this, I tend to also start making comments, which detracts from the story and my ability to lose myself in it.

Before going, my mother and my aunt made sure to let me know that there is no shame in going to the movies with other people, even if it’s because I’m afraid to go somewhere alone where I’m not in complete control of the situation. But, I learned today, that going alone to something you might normally go to with other people, is okay. It lets you absorb something for yourself and determine if you actually enjoyed it, rather than accepting the opinions of others as your own.

I’ll say now, I don’t think I would have loved this movie as much as I do had I gone with other people. I would have listened to comments from them, and picked up their opinions of it before I could fully develop my own opinion. I have a bad habit of deferring to the opinions of others and if they don’t think it was as good as I did, I back off and almost feel ashamed of liking it more, like I’m wrong – even if there is no wrong or right.

Basically, I never get to fan girl because I’m so self-conscious about showing any enjoyment of anything that the people around me don’t enjoy.

I’m really excited now because I have at least a week to develop my own opinion before someone I see on a regular basis forms an opinion. (My aunt is seeing it next Sunday.)

Taking myself to the movies, was the best choice I’ve made so far this year, and it’s only day 7. I can’t wait to see how much more I can grow this year, what I can learn about myself, my faith, and the world I live in.

I’m excited to dream with my eyes wide open. 😉

Goals – 2018

Some of you may remember that around September, before the site update and rebrand, that I posted a set of goals for my writing meant to take place between Then and the end of August 2018?

However, with the new year starting I find that I very much want to be setting goals like everyone else. There’s something that appeals to my ordered nature (I heard that snort in the back, have a joke you’d like to share with the rest of the class?) about the symmetry of the year and goals. The fact that we mark a new beginning at this time is intriguing. I mean time may be just a social construct, but it rules our lives more than we care to admit. So, instead of setting completely new goals I’m gong to tweak a few of them and add a few to reflect my current state.

  1.  72 Poems total (adds 18 poems… don’t know if it’s one a week, I’m a little behind right now, so I’ll make it work)
  2. 17 Short Stories (adds 5 stories)
  3. 8 Essays Total (adds 2)
  4. 1 Television Pilot – Goal Unchanged
  5. 1 Fiction Novel – Do you think I’m crazy enough to add another novel to this whole mess?… You’re sort of right – keep reading for an explanation.
  6. Instead of a Non-Fiction book I’m working on a multi-media interactive project that may or may not include a Non-Fiction written element in the form of a book… but this project is already beyond a book with the way I’m seeing this.
  7. 1 Feature Script – Goal Unchanged

And here we get to the brand new goals… all shiny and freshly minted!!!

  1. 24 Paintings (2 a month): I feel this is a reasonable goal to achieve, painting is a new hobby, but I’m hoping to make more use out of it when telling stories
  2. Serial Fiction (Or Why I’m sort of crazy… but not crazy enough to add a second Novel to my goals for the year.) : I want to plot a serial fiction piece and start releasing it on its own site this year (So be watching.) I’m also hoping to do art for it as well. I don’t feel good enough – or fast enough – to start releasing a web comic, but I’m hoping that eventually I will acquire the skill, time, and ability to do that as well.
  3. I want to be happy… I have so many goals right now that I’m not including here because they’re long-winded and I don’t want this post to be too long, but they can all be summed up as, I want to be happy, closer to God, and doing what I love on my own terms.

These are my goals for 2018, I’m turning 22 years old this May, it’s exciting, but there are so many things I haven’t done or experienced. So many things I want to do in so many different aspects of my life. So, here’s to a fun, interesting , and creative filled year.

Yours Always,

M.K.